»To Sigrid Wiesmann for her Birthday«

For celeste and piano
Premiere: Dezember 21, 2005, Arnold Schönberg Center (Vienna)
Duration: ca. 2'30''

The Austrian musicologist Sigrid Wiesmann was close to the Ensemble Wiener Collage, right from the time of its foundation in the late 1980’s. In late summer 2001 I was therefore asked to prepare a musical contribution for the commemorative volume titled »Zeit-Wart / Gegen-Geist«, issued on the occasion of her 60th birthday.

The resulting work is an example of a manner of composing that I first employed in my Bagatelles on the name of György Ligeti, where the main components are different tempo relations and the rhythmic patterns resulting from these, as well as combination of different harmonic dispositions of one and the same chord.

The underlying idea of the work is simple: the musical letters of the name Sigrid Wiesmann are played through completely in two differently harmonized formations. These and their corresponding forms of retrograde, inversion, and retrograde inversion are played through completely in three different transpositions, and then in a fourth (coda) section only three quarters through. The musical letters of the name SiGriD wiESmAnn appear 60 times, a compact birthday present.

The working out of this idea is, however, complex. The unfolding does not (as one might first expect) follow simple variation principles, but has the relations between the various tempi determined by the distributional principle 2 : 3 : 5. The necessity thus ensued of giving each of the 60 musical name references individual form and character analogous to the individual tempi. The first basic tempo is quarter note 60, the second quarter note 90, and the third quarter note 150. The three basic tempi thus lay down the durations of the three sections. Within each section, its basic tempo yields other tempos in similar relations, these being however not identical to the three original basic tempos. Finally, the coda uses only the three original tempi.

A form thus appears that has nothing to do with expositions and recapitulations in the classical sense, but presents rather three different processes, a form whose coda then attempts to draw a conclusion from the yielded results.

Sigrid Wiesmann was head of the consulting musicological group of the Ensemble Wiener Collage. She died tragically in a car accident in Tirol in December 2001, shortly after her 60th birthday. So this short piece became memorial music not only for a dear friend of the ensemble, but also for a friend of new music in general. [René Staar, 2001]

A note regarding the realization:
The material seemed at first conceivable for numerous different instrumental combinations. For reasons of time, the composer could work out only one version. The piece can be performed by piano and celeste, or by two pianos. Since the celeste is notated an octave below sounding pitch, the alternative part Piano I must be played so that it sounds an octave higher than written. This scoring, up to now the only realization of the material, was chosen by the composer partly because of the proximity to Christmas. So it could also be understood as a kind of Advent Music.